Hughes of Sherman
may have been the only man in East
Texas to be lynched
while he was dead.
Hughes was working on a farm near Sherman
in May of 1930 when he went to the farm to collect his wages. The
man who owned the farm wasn’t home and his wife told Hughes to come
Described as being “a little wild,” Hughes came back with a shotgun
and demanded his money and assaulted the woman.
When he fled, Hughes fired shotgun blasts at officers investigating
Hughes surrendered to lawmen the following Monday, May 5, and was
indicted for criminal assault during a special meeting of the Grayson
County grand jury. His trial was set for May 9.
As tensions increased in Sherman,
lawmen removed Hughes from the jail to another location to prevent
a mob from seizing him.
When the trial date arrived, Texas Ranger Frank Hamer, joined by other
rangers and a local policeman, escorted Hughes to the courthouse.
Only those involved in the case were allowed in the courtroom, but
a mob outside began to swell in size. Some managed to gain access
to the courthouse
When the trial
began, the mob outside began throwing rocks at the courthouse, breaking
When the jury was selected and the first witness was called, the
mob forced open the courtroom doors. The Texas Rangers fired three
warning shots and the jury and Hughes were rushed from the courtroom.
The mob made another rush on the courthouse
and the Rangers pushed them back with tear gas volleys.
District Judge R.M. Carter conferred with lawyers and said he was
considering moving the trial to another town. Hamer said he doubted
the trial could be held without bloodshed.
Around 2:30 p.m., two mob members threw an open can of gasoline
through a broken window into the courthouse’s
tax office. A fire quickly spread in the courthouse,
forcing officials and those involved in the trial to climb down
When the deputies guarding Hughes offered to escort him from the
building, Hamer said the courthouse
vault was the safest place for him.
On the ground, the mob held fireman back and cut their water hoses.
The courthouse was soon engulfed in flames. By late afternoon, only
the walls of the courthouse
and the vault remained.
The mob attacked the vault, knowing Hughes was inside, and used
dynamite and acetylene torches to open the door. Whether Hughes
died from the dynamite or acetylene fumes is not known, but the
mob finally pulled his body from the vault.
The body was then dragged behind an automobile and finally hanged
from a tree.
A local grand jury indicted fourteen men in connection with the
riot, but only two were convicted, one for rioting and another for
arson. Hughes was buried at the county’s poor farm.
Bob Bowman's East Texas
14, 2010 Column
A weekly column syndicated in 109 East Texas newspapers
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